Bloody Sunday and the Report of the Widgery Tribunal - Summary and Significance of New Material
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6. Over 500 witness statements were recorded by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the National Council for Civil Liberties shortly after Bloody Sunday and presented to the Widgery Tribunal in March 1972. Of these, 114 were selected for publication in Don Mullan's Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, The Truth which was published in January 1997. None of the statements were edited (save for minor spelling errors etc.). These statements portray a vivid picture of physical brutality and the deliberate use of lethal force without justification by the British Army. According to the statements, the British Army deployed in a very fast and aggressive manner into Rossville Street/Glenfada Park, took no obvious precautions against return IRA fire and shot unarmed civilians, often with lethal intent. Incidences of brutality are frequently recounted in these statements, often involving references to the abuse of those who attempted to render assistance - including uniformed members of the Order of Malta. They also contain claims that a number of the wounded were deliberately killed. Don Mullan proposes the thesis in his book, based on these eyewitness statements and other evidence (particularly ballistics and medical) that British Army snipers fired shots from the vicinity of Derry Walls which proved fatal in three instances.
7. The eyewitness statements are not new and were in fact available to the Widgery Tribunal. According to Lord Widgery "the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association collected a large number of statements from people in Londonderry said to be willing to give evidence. These statements reached me at an advanced stage in the Inquiry. In so far as they contained new material, not traversing ground already familiar from evidence given before me, I have made use of them."
8. It is also evident from a recently released memorandum written by the Tribunal's secretary on 10 March 1972 that the statements were considered in some manner by either the Treasury Solicitor's Office and/or Counsel for the Tribunal, Mr. Stocker. Mr. Stocker in fact selected 15 statements which he thought worthwhile bringing to Lord Widgery's attention. Mr. Hall of the Treasury Solicitor's Office believed there were four statements which, according to the memorandum, he would like to have seen given in evidence. The Tribunal's secretary, W.J. Smith, believed that evidence from some of these witnesses should have been taken "since it was clear that if this was not done there would subsequently be heavy criticism."
9. The memorandum records that Lord Widgery believed that the statements were submitted at a "late stage" to cause him "maximum embarrassment" and that there was little choice but to call either none or a substantial number which he was not prepared to do at that stage. He did not believe that the statements brought anything new to the proceedings. It is very difficult to see how Lord Widgery could have arrived at that judgement in an objective and balanced way if he had read a substantial portion of the statements. His negative response to them seems to indicate that he did indeed view them as coming from "the other side".
10. The eyewitness statements as published by Don Mullan are new to the public at large and in their consistency and clarity have provided a disturbingly vivid description of what happened on Bloody Sunday. This view of events is diametrically opposed to that offered in the official version of events by Lord Widgery and in that manner have resurrected the long held concerns that the Widgery Tribunal and its Report frustrated the objective for which it was established. Furthermore, the publication of the eyewitness accounts by Don Mullan has provided the foundation for the emergence of other information, including archival material and what are believed to be new eyewitnesses from the security forces.
11. Lord Widgery's failure to use this evidence, to adequately consider the information contained in their statements which challenged assertions made by the military witnesses at the Tribunal in general as well as key instances, or to call a reasonable number of the civilian eyewitnesses was significant in the following terms:
- A major body of evidence which directly contradicted the evidence presented by the implicated soldiers (on which Lord Widgery based his findings) was effectively ignored.12. Lord Widgery's dismissive approach to the statements, his failure to see them as a crucial repository of valuable - not to say indispensable - evidence and his belief that their arrival was intended to cause him embarrassment were at odds with his own emphasis on the importance of eyewitness accounts and seemed to run directly counter to the very remit of his Inquiry which was, if nothing else, to establish what happened.
13. According to the terms of the 1921 Act which governed the Widgery Tribunal, Lord Widgery in his role as chairman decided procedure, rules of evidence and what was and was not to be considered. The 1921 Act conferred on him the powers, rights and privileges of a High Court or a judge of the High Court in terms of compelling witnesses to attend (and to be cross examined) and the production of documents. However, such a role is predicated on the notion that the chair will use its powers to locate, consider and present all the relevant evidence which assists in uncovering the truth i.e. that the chairman is actually intent on discovering the truth. That a chairman would use his powers to suppress relevant evidence or to fail to consider evidence presented to him fairly is so patently at odds with the functions of a tribunal, indeed its raison d'etre, that statutory safeguards do not exist to prevent this occurring.
14. The argument that full consideration of this evidence would have caused undue delay in producing the Report carries little weight in light of the seriousness of what the Inquiry was established to determine. Indeed, the very speed with which the Tribunal was concluded added profoundly to the widespread belief that it was not primarily concerned with establishing the full truth.
15. Without additional testimony by the eyewitnesses and the elucidation
of their contribution to the Inquiry by cross examination, much
vital information was not elicited such as the precise identity
of the victims alluded to and the sequence of events. The true
evidentiary value, therefore, of the eyewitness statements was
never fully explored through cross examination and their contribution
to the process of determining what happened and to whom was never
properly or fully utilised. This will continue to remain the case
until the true value of these eyewitness accounts is fully explored
and corroborated by other forms of evidence in the appropriate
forum. The full significance of these statements and their potential
evidentiary value at the time emerges in the course of the deconstruction
of the Widgery Report which follows.
16. The Government collected 101 statements by eyewitnesses which
it considered reflected the events on the ground from the civilian
perspective. These confirm and in many instances add to the overall
picture presented by eyewitness statements published by Don Mullan.
They add further details, often significant, to the descriptions
in Eyewitness Bloody Sunday of how many of the victims were killed
or wounded. Several of these accounts attest to fire coming from
the vicinity of Derry Walls. They also provide graphic accounts
of the brutality inflicted on civilians by British soldiers, including
accounts by members of the Order of Malta. Many of those who provided
these accounts also gave statements to the NICRA/NCCL.
17. Since Lord Widgery decided not to give any significant consideration to the civilian eyewitness accounts, whether the information contained in the statements given to the Government could be considered 'new' is rather moot. They would certainly be new to the public today in terms of the additional details and perspectives they offer from the civilian side.
18. Information provided in these statements does not in general
terms alter the description of events offered in Eyewitness Bloody
Sunday; they offer further corroboration about the eyewitness
descriptions already published. In several instances, they augment
these with significant additional detail about the deaths which
19. Professor Dermot Walsh of the Law Department at the University of Limerick has studied a series of documents relating to the Tribunal and released by the Public Record Office in 1996. These have been published as The Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry, a resounding defeat for truth, justice and the rule of law which is a comprehensive critique of the Widgery Tribunal, its motives, methods and conclusions. Central to Prof. Walsh's analysis is his study of the recently released documents, in particular 28 statements made by soldiers to the Military Police on the night of 30/31 January and 13 supplementaries shortly thereafter (i.e. 41 statements in all; statements made by other soldiers and police personnel to the Military Police were not released.)
20. These statements contain, according to Prof. Walsh's study, "serious and relevant discrepancies" when compared with statements subsequently made to the Treasury Solicitors for the purpose of the Inquiry. This applies to almost every soldier who fired one or more shots. While available to the Counsel to the Tribunal and Counsel for the Army, the earlier statements were not available to Counsel for the next of kin. As Walsh states, "the reality is that the soldiers were never exposed to the sort of cross examination to which they would have been exposed had the contents of their earlier statements been disclosed to Counsel for the deceased."
21. Prof. Walsh notes that it is "hardly coincidence that in many instances the effect of the changes was to convert what had originally amounted to an unlawful or reckless shooting to a more justifiable one." He also points out that changes had the effect of reducing some of the conflicts in the versions presented by different soldiers.
22. Furthermore, and perhaps most damning of all to the credibility of the Tribunal, Prof. Walsh points out that "even when the solicitor for the Army asserted in his closing address that the evidence given by the soldiers to the Tribunal did not differ from their original statements, apart from one instance, Counsel for the Tribunal remained silent." Prof. Walsh concludes that not only did the Tribunal ignore evidence available to it which clearly damaged the reliability of statements made by the soldiers in the witness box but by remaining silent "actively concealed the existence of the evidence which renders the basis of its own findings unreliable."
23. The initial statements made by the soldiers to the Military Police are not new since they were available to the Tribunal. However, their existence is new to the public now and would have been new to both the public at the time and, crucially, to Counsel for the next of kin. What is new about this material is the revelation that the Tribunal deliberately failed to reveal evidence available to it which undermined the reliability of statements made by the implicated soldiers in the witness box and which ultimately formed the basis for the Tribunal's report. In other words, it is from its very vintage that the material derives its power to invalidate the grounds on which the Widgery Report was based.
24. In terms of the credibility of the Tribunal as impartial and the validity of the Report as a version of events, this material is highly significant and profoundly damaging;
- The statements of the soldiers made to the Military Police, so soon after the events, clearly constitute material evidence in and of themselves and as such ought to have been available to Counsel for the next of kin. Furthermore, the fact that they contain serious and relevant material discrepancies and differences as against subsequent written and oral statements made by these same soldiers to the Tribunal substantively altered and enhanced their value for the purposes of cross examination. That they were not made available to Counsel for the next of kin for this purpose rendered the process of cross examination fundamentally flawed.
25. Prof. Walsh's Report also analyses archival material released by the British Public Record Office in 1995 and 1996. He concludes that this provides "compelling and disturbing support" for the suspicion that the Tribunal was, as he puts it, "in favour of clearing the Army of any serious wrongdoing". There are two sources for this conclusion - a record of a meeting between the Prime Minister and Lord Chief Justice Widgery and a number of documents which reveal the important role played by the Secretary to the Tribunal.
26. The memorandum of the meeting between Prime Minister Heath, Lord Chancellor Hailsham and Lord Widgery, which occurred at 10 Downing Street on 31 January 1972, records that the Prime Minister advised that the Inquiry had no precedent as to its subject, "nor perhaps was it the sort of subject that those who designed the 1921 Act originally had in mind". He stated further that it followed that "the recommendations on procedure made by Lord Salmon might not necessarily be relevant in this case." The Prime Minister also advised Lord Widgery that "it had to be remembered that we are in Northern Ireland fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war". Finally, the Lord Chancellor suggested "that the Treasury Solicitor would need to brief Counsel for the army." As Walsh points out, "it would be difficult to imagine a more clear-cut conflict of interest than having a solicitor to an independent Tribunal briefing Counsel for the very party whose actions were supposed to be investigated by that Tribunal."
27. While it was to be expected that W.J. Smith as Secretary to the Tribunal would provide valuable assistance to Lord Widgery throughout the Tribunal, recently published material has provided evidence of the disproportionate and apparently prejudicial influence exerted by him. The material suggests that his influence was substantial, was taken on board by Lord Widgery and tended throughout to favour a version exonerating the Army:
- The Secretary identified discrepancies in the different statements given by Soldier F, which he stated Lord Widgery should "deal with". The Secretary noted that later Lord Widgery accepted this point.
28. Prof. Walsh's concerns in this regard focus on two issues. Firstly, that this influence by the Secretary was not evident to those involved in the Tribunal (other than those working directly with Lord Widgery). Secondly, the obvious conclusion is that the Secretary would appear to be primarily motivated by a desire to present the Army's case in a more favourable light. On this basis, the Tribunal failed to deliver on its obligation to be totally impartial in ascertaining and presenting the full truth of what happened.
29. Prof. Walsh believes that the phrase 'LCJ will pile up the case against the deceased' "could be interpreted as evidence that the Lord Chief Justice himself was intent on presenting the case against the deceased in the strongest possible terms; i.e. that he was consciously biased in favour of the Army." At the least, Walsh writes, it "suggests that Lord Widgery innocently, and presumably under the influence of the Secretary's memo, adopted an unfair approach to the presentation of evidence upon which he based his conclusions." Prof. Walsh submits that "this appearance is sufficient in itself to impugn the credibility of the Tribunal's Report."
30. As it is based on archival documents, this is new material only in the sense that it is new to the public. However, it does shed new light on the establishment and operation of the Inquiry. In that it was private, available only to the Tribunal and not to Counsel for the next of kin, it could in that sense also be considered new. It cannot be ruled out that further archival material may emerge which would throw further light on the circumstances and conduct of the Tribunal and, indeed, on the events of Bloody Sunday itself.
31. The archival material on the circumstances of the establishment
of the Tribunal and its operation supports suggestions of a bias
in favour of exonerating the Army. It reinforces the belief that
the Tribunal accepted evidence supporting the Army's version of
events while frustrating the presentation of other crucial evidence
contradicting that version and supporting that offered by civilians.
It would be reasonable to assume that the effort to "pile
up the case against the deceased" is a sinister phrase indicative
of a bias against them. This interpretation is clearly borne out
by the Report itself as emerges later in this assessment.
32. Portions of two transcripts of statements by Para AA (name supplied), purporting to be his account of service with the anti-tank platoon of 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland in 1971-72 [and giving his service no. (supplied)] were forwarded by a journalist, Mr. Tom McGurk, to the Government on 26 February 1997. The contents of the transcripts are grim and, at points, grisly. They allege that members of Para AA's unit engaged in the robbery, beatings ("beastings"), torture, mutilation and murder of civilians in Northern Ireland. On Bloody Sunday, they allege that the anti-tank platoon of Support Company had, on the previous day, been encouraged by its Lieutenant to get some "kills", that they had their own supply of ammunition, that they used dum-dum bullets on the day, that Paras deliberately shot at unarmed civilians in Rossville Street, that named members of the anti-tank platoon entered Glenfada Park and that Para AA witnessed some of them unlawfully kill four demonstrably unarmed civilians there, including at least one who was already wounded, that soldiers lied to the Tribunal and that members of the Tribunal altered Para AA's statement so that it "bore no relation to fact and [I] was told with a smile that this is the statement I would use when going on the stand."
33. Portions of the material relating to Bloody Sunday were published on 16 March last by the Sunday Business Post. On Tuesday, 18 March, Channel Four News broadcast an interview with a paratrooper in which he said that "shameful and disgraceful acts" were committed, that there was no order to fire to his knowledge, and that the Widgery Tribunal staff tended to ignore what he said which was not in accord with the line they wished to take, took his statement away and returned with another version. In the course of the programme, a reporter outlined a sequence of events in Glenfada Park which bears similarities with the account given in the Para AA document. The similarities between the account given by Para AA and the albeit less explicit account by the paratrooper to Channel Four are striking. It is not unlikely that the author of the transcript and the paratrooper who appeared on the Channel Four programme are one and the same, though this has not yet been established.
34. If Para AA does come forward and claim authorship, then the authenticity of the document can be conclusively established. Additional information may come to light, such as to whom the interviews, accounts or transcripts were given (if anyone), who transcribed the document, who has been in possession of copies and who passed a copy to Mr. McGurk. Obviously that would not establish that the contents are factually accurate. However, given the volume of verifiable facts within the document, this question can presumably be answered at least in part through either research or official confirmation by the British authorities.
35. It should also be noted that incidents described in the Para AA document reflect the contents of the civilian eyewitness statements published by Don Mullan and those contained in Irish Government files. The account given by Para AA of what happened in Glenfada Park is eerily similar, albeit from the soldier's perspective, to that offered by the NICRA/NCCL eyewitness statements.
36. One claim in the document appears to have been verified: Para AA claimed in it that he was given the number 027 for the purpose of giving statements to the Widgery Tribunal. In the soldiers' statements made to the authorities and recently released by the British Public Record Office, there is in fact a statement by a soldier with the number 027. The account provided by 027 appears to correspond closely to that described in the Para AA document.
37. If the transcript is authenticated, then it represents the most significant new evidence yet to come to light regarding the actions of soldiers on the ground during Bloody Sunday, particularly what happened in Glenfada Park, and the nature of the Widgery Tribunal. The allegation that Counsel for the Tribunal fabricated evidence, if verified, would represent a fatal blow to the Tribunal's credibility.
38. In the transcript, Para AA states that an original statement was torn up by the staff of the Tribunal and another statement taken. In the records released by the British Public Record Office and used as the basis for Professor Walsh's report, there is a statement by a soldier 027 which tallies with information given in the Para AA document. Significantly, the "approved" version by 027 contains the following alternative version of what happened in Glenfada Park:
"I was a short distance behind them [soldiers E, F, G, and H] and as they went out of my view round the corner I heard several SLR shots. I cannot say who fired and neither can I say what target they engaged. However, as I reached the corner of the building I saw a crowd of about 40 civilians at the far end of the park. They appeared to be leaving through an exit in the NW corner of the area. Then I saw a male civilian in his early twenties wearing blue clothing and with long hair lighting something in his hand. I then heard someone say drop it but I do not know who said that or whether it was directed at the youth holding the petrol bomb. As he attempted to throw the bomb 'E' knelt and fired at the youth at an estimated range of 20 metres. I saw the youth fall to the ground as the petrol bomb exploded near by."
39. This is in startling contrast to the version presented in the transcript. It removes Para AA/027 from view and introduces a threatening civilian, armed with a petrol bomb, to justify his killing. 027 was never called to give testimony by Lord Widgery who relied on the testimony of the four soldiers who actually fired i.e. the implicated soldiers.
40. If the Para AA document is authentic, then it appears that another British Army witness was available and potentially willing to state what he saw if encouraged to do so by the Widgery Tribunal rather than be presented with a fabricated exculpatory account as claimed in the Para AA document.
41. Para AA's claim that each soldier had a personal supply of bullets appears to accord with eyewitness statements on the volume of fire and, if verified, makes something of a mockery of Lord Widgery's apparent assiduousness in accounting for rounds expended. The use of dum-dum bullets was and is contrary to the Geneva Convention. The claim that dum-dums were fired appears to accord with the nature of the wound inflicted on at least one of the victims in Rossville Street, Bernard McGuigan.
42. There are other disturbing indications in the Para AA transcript
which suggest that the level of excessive - not to say lethal
- force was sanctioned by the British Army i.e. the briefing by
the officer commanding the unit on the previous day seeking some
"kills", the degree of aggression and expectation that
the unit was about to engage the IRA and the presence on the ground
of what appears to have been plain-clothes British operatives
and a "P.R." man. It has long been suggested that the
presence on the day in Derry of the officer commanding land forces
in Northern Ireland, General Ford, indicated that the British
Army had planned a more significant operation than mere containment
and arrest. If true, the Para AA account would clearly suggest
that elements of 1 Para were intent on more than arrest and containment.
43. In his introduction to Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, Don Mullan draws particular attention to the trajectory of the wounds of three of the victims (William Nash, Michael McDaid and John Young), all killed at the Rossville Street barricade. He notes that Dr. John Press, who carried out all the post mortem examinations on 31 January, recorded that the trajectory of the wounds of all three victims were 45 degrees to the horizontal plane. Mullan says that as a lay person, it seemed "highly unlikely that a cluster of ten to twelve bullets, fired from any one of seven soldiers (as Lord Widgery would have us believe), all of varying heights in varying firing positions and all at ground level, could have produced such remarkably similar 45 degree downward trajectories."
44. Appendix 3 to the book contains a statement from Dr. Raymond McClean of 6 November 1996 which states that "the conclusion to be drawn from the forensic evidence, allied to the eyewitness account [i.e. that of Denis McLaughlin], suggests the likelihood that William Nash was killed by a bullet fired from the vicinity of the Derry Walls."
45. The post mortem results are not new and were available to the Tribunal. However, McClean's statement of 6 November 1996 is new in that it combines the medical evidence with the eyewitness evidence that shots were fired from the Walls. It is the combination of eyewitness evidence, recent statements by witnesses believed to be soldiers and medical evidence such as that indicated by Dr. McClean, that opens again the question of who shot and killed a number of the victims and from where.
46. This material is significant in that it directly contradicts the findings of the Widgery Report relating to a number of deaths. It highlights the failure of the Tribunal to consider the medical evidence in and of itself. The Tribunal determined that all the Army shots were fired by the soldiers advancing up Rossville Street toward the barricade and at targets facing them rather than fleeing. Evidence which suggested that the shots were fired from any other direction was therefore discounted, irrespective of its merits. In that respect, Lord Widgery either disregarded or failed to explore fully the medical evidence given by Dr. John Press (Assistant State Pathologist) on the trajectory of the wounds of the three fatalities at the Rossville Street barricade. Furthermore, Lord Widgery failed to call Dr. McClean to testify despite the obvious and possibly critical contribution he could have made regarding the medical evidence. If shots were fired from the Walls, then the medical evidence from the bodies of Nash, McDaid and Young would appear to correlate with such shots. The Tribunal failed, therefore, to provide a full or credible account for the deaths of a number of the victims.
47. If the Mullan thesis is correct that shots were indeed fired from the Walls and hit and possibly killed a number of the victims of Bloody Sunday, then on this point alone the Widgery Report must be characterised as incomplete and inherently flawed. Furthermore, since it would conflict with the professed intention of the British Army to mount an arrest operation, firing from the Walls would profoundly alter perceptions about what happened on Bloody Sunday.
48. The full disclosure of all relevant medical records regarding
the victims (dead and wounded) would undoubtedly help clarify
many of the outstanding questions regarding the direction from
which shots were fired.
49. In his introduction to Eyewitness, Bloody Sunday, Don Mullan records his discussion with Robert Breglio, an independent ballistics consultant who had spent twenty five years as a detective in the New York Police Department's ballistics squad. Having reviewed photographs, statements and inquest reports, Mr. Breglio stated that it was his opinion that "the angles of trajectory of bullet wounds of three deceased named: William Nash, John Young and Michael McDaid, originated from an area in the vicinity of Derry Walls and from a height that would inflict wounds of this angle trajectory (sic)."
50. Having undertaken further field research, Mr. Breglio published his conclusions in March 1997. He arrived at the following conclusion:
(That impact marks on the gable at the entrance to Glenfada Park and Rossville Street) were made by being struck by high velocity projectiles that were fired from a high powered weapon. The trajectory of these projectiles is incoming from east to west and probably a north west direction. I will conclude that in my professional opinion these projectiles were fired from a position located up in the area of Derry Walls.
51. The Breglio Report also contains a medical report by Dr. Raymond McClean which states that:
52. In a Channel Four News broadcast on 17 January 1997, Dr. Hugh Thomas, a consultant surgeon at Prince Charles Hospital (Merthyr Tydfil, Wales), stated the following:
53. These shots could only have come from a higher level. It would
be almost impossible for those three men in the few seconds available
to them to bend to exactly the same angle and face exactly the
same way and be shot in exactly the same fashion. It would be
extraordinary and almost unheard of. So, I would say definitely
54. This clearly constitutes new evidence from three eminent and independent expert sources. It suggests that other relevant evidence exists within official British archives which could help resolve the questions raised about shooting from elevated positions.
55. The significance of this material can be judged by the fact that new ballistics evidence would be regarded as sufficient to warrant an appeal in a criminal conviction.
56. In terms of the Widgery Report, it would mean that a significant portion of it would have to be dismissed (e.g. in terms of its accounts of the deaths of some of the victims and its version of events at the Rossville Street barricade) and, further, that an area of significant activity on the part of the British Army in the vicinity of the Walls was simply ignored in the official version of events.
57. In confirming the value and veracity of the civilian eyewitness
accounts, this material reinforces the concerns regarding the
balance of treatment afforded to eyewitnesses as between civilian
and military. Had Lord Widgery been so minded, he could have explored
the full potential of the ballistics, medical and forensic evidence
to help him decide between the veracity of the various contending
eyewitness accounts. That he failed to do so - even to the point
of not calling medical expert witnesses, such as Dr. McClean,
or of ignoring their testimony, such as Dr. Press, both of whom
were present at the post mortem examinations - allowed him to
avoid drawing what is now the obvious conclusion, that the ballistics,
medical and forensic evidence corroborated the version of events
presented by the civilian eyewitnesses rather than that offered
by the implicated soldiers and other military witnesses.
58. James A.W. Porter recorded British Army and RUC radio messages on 30 January. Despite their obvious relevance, they were ruled inadmissible as evidence by Lord Widgery on the grounds that they had been obtained illicitly. Mr. Porter has made copies of these tapes and transcripts available to the Government. As Don Mullan points out, these messages indicate that the British Army was in fact firing from the Walls. He also points out that "nowhere in the transcripts is there any report of nail bomb or petrol bomb explosions."
59. This is not new material in that its existence was known to the Tribunal.
60. The significance of these intercepts is problematic. On the one hand they recorded contemporaneous British Army and RUC messages which make clear that shots were fired from Derry Walls. In conjunction with other new material, it would appear to provide additional evidence not considered by Lord Widgery though clearly available to him at the time. Yet the messages were relayed openly and were known therefore to be liable to interception and recording. This raises the possibility that they may have been used to convey misinformation e.g. that shots were fired at the Walls, to which shots were returned. Furthermore, the messages in themselves do not reflect in a convincing or complete way the events as they unfolded. This is partially explained by the fact that operational messages had been switched to the secure link. It is the log of exchanges on the secure link which would provide a much clearer picture of the British Army's movements and actions on the ground. If the radio messages were used to convey misinformation on fire at the security forces, then it is difficult to invoke them as proof that fire was actually returned from the Army on the Walls. The significance of the radio intercepts may rest therefore in being an example of deliberate misinformation about coming under fire rather than in what they purport to relate about actual events.
61. Nonetheless, Lord Widgery's decision, on indeterminate legal
grounds, that these intercepts were illicitly obtained seems perverse.
They clearly had some relevance, for example in raising for further
consideration the possibility of British Army fire from the vicinity
of the Walls or in demonstrating the possible significance of
other radio messages such as those on the secure link. The failure
to consider the intercepts underlines the significance of the
absence of any consideration by Lord Widgery of the actions and
intent of British Army units on duty at and around the Walls and
believed responsible for shots, some of which may have been fatal
to a number of innocent civilians. They further underline his
failure to convincingly account for the intentions and actions
of British Army units not involved in the arrest operation but
evidently involved in the events of Bloody Sunday.
62. On 17 January 1997, Channel Four News broadcast a major investigative report, drawing on eyewitness statements, the Porter intercepts and the opinion of a medical expert, Dr. Thomas, in which it was asserted that the British Army fired from the Walls and from that position a marksman hit and killed Young, Nash and McDaid.
63. On 29 January 1997, Channel Four News reported that as a result of the broadcast of 17 January 1997, a former soldier with the Royal Anglian Regiment had come forward and, while he refused to be identified or filmed, confirmed that shots were fired from the vicinity of the Walls and that hits were claimed by at least one Army sniper in a derelict terrace adjacent to the Walls who, he said, shouted "He's got a gun....Bloody hell, I've got two with three shots." He also thought it possible that in the confusion the British Army sniper fired without being fired upon.
64. This is clearly new material. Whether it will constitute new evidence will turn on whether those making the statements to Channel Four are prepared to come forward.
65. This material, if and when its source were to come forward
and confirm this account, would be highly significant evidence
that British Army snipers fired from around the Walls and claimed
hits. It would considerably boost the argument that the Widgery
Report failed to account for a significant aspect of the killings
and the possibility that some deaths were as a result of fire
from soldiers other than the paratroopers.
66. Don Mullan has examined statements recently released by the British Public Record Office made by four soldiers who were stationed on Derry's Walls which appear to confirm that snipers were positioned on or near the Walls overlooking the Bogside. He examines claims in these statements that shots were fired at the Walls and concludes that these are not credible. For example, in three of the soldiers' testimonies there is no mention of coming under civilian fire. Soldier 156 claimed that two bullets struck the Walls at 4.15 pm which he presumed to have come from St. Columb's Wells. Mullan dismisses this as "fantasy" since the crowd assembling at this time in the area of the supposed gunmen remained relaxed. Had a gunman, he argues, been operating, the mood would have been very different. Mullan asks whether the three sniper shots fired from the derelict houses near the Walls, as related by soldier 156, might have hit Young, Nash and McDaid.
67. While this material was available to the Tribunal, it was not available to the Counsel for the next of kin or to the public.
68. Its significance lies in the fact that it may help to confirm from British Army sources that shots were in fact fired from the vicinity of the Walls. However, the testimonies of the soldiers were completely unreliable in numerous instances and any faith in them as accurate source material is highly suspect. Given their unreliability, clear corroboration is required. At least in terms of these testimonies and what they say of fire returned from the vicinity of the Walls by the British Army, there now exists corroboration from other sources of evidence as already described here.
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